The New Delhi-based “Concerned Citizens Group” (CCG) led by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha has said people in Kashmir fear that government of India would settle outsiders in the Valley to effect the “demographic change.”
A new report by the CCG says that Kashmiris “seemed to be working within an ideological frame” even as things were far from normal in the Valley.
“There was an air of depression when we talked to the locals,” the report reads, adding people were concerned over loss of language, statehood to J&K, its own Constitution and flag and autonomy.
The report says that many people believed the events starting from August 5 and the “subsequent ratification” of the government’s decisions in Parliament demonstrated it was end of politics in Kashmir and a “process of controlling Kashmiris by force had begun.”
“They (Kashmiris) believe that Indian government wants to marginalise them if not annihilate them. This fear is expressed most vividly as fear of demographic change by creating new settlements for outsiders,” reads the report. “There is also fear of National Register of Citizens and how it could be used to legitimise settlers.”
Apart from Sinha, the group comprised former Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah; Air Vice Marshal (R), Kapil Kak and senior journalist Bharat Bhushan.
The group visited Srinagar on November 22 and stayed in the capital city for four days. The group members were however not allowed to travel to other parts of Kashmir including southern Kashmir.
The report says “three emerging strategies” by government of India were being watched with a lot of apprehension by people of Kashmir – “reconstruction and renovation of temples, setting up of a Medical City, and separate settlements for Kashmiri Pandits and ex-servicemen.”
The report reads that government of India has announced a plan of renovating and reconstructing 50,000 temples in Kashmir. “However, Kashmiri Pandit activists in the Valley point out that there are only 1842 temples, springs, caves and shrines that are considered holy in the entire Valley and of these only about 1100 are big or small temples,” the report reads. “Who is giving them (the government of India) this number (50,000) when even after including Jammu region the number of temples is not more than 4,000.”
“The second point of the government’s strategy, Kashmiris believe, would be the so-called development projects like setting up a Medical City or Medicity with hospitals, medical and nursing colleges, super speciality treatment centres, and residential accommodation for doctors, nurses and other paramedics,” reads the report. “This will necessarily bring outsiders to the Valley, because they will be packaged as development projects. The third strategy, the locals believe the government may use for demographic change is to create settlement enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits and ex-servicemen (Sainik Colonies.”
The report reads the internet ban has affected students, job seekers, entrepreneurs, businesses and ordinary people of Kashmir alike. “Why was internet not blocked when the terrorist attack of 26/11 took place in Mumbai?”
The report says there were around 14 lakh students learning online. “Those wishing to appear for NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) or other competitive examinations for higher education are unable to do so because of internet gag,” the report reads.
The report says Kashmir economy has plunged into an “abyss”. “In one move the entire economy was shattered across sectors ranging from tourism, handicrafts, Information Technology, industry and horticulture,” the report says.
“It hurt the economy grievously and that process has not stopped,” the report quotes a representative of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The representative has put total loss to Rs 12,000 crore.
The report said that agricultural sector was one of the worst affected after August 5. “The first sector to suffer was sheep-breeding. August 12 was the festival of Eid and this time because of the blockade imposed on the population, Eid was not celebrated publicly and not even 30 percent of the sheep were sold,” he said.
The report says people in Kashmir tend to think that protests and civil disobedience will make no difference to government of India. “So they are asking: What should be done which would make a difference? The prevalence of such questions may in fact be preparing the ground for a new phase of militancy,” the report said.